Goal: Return to ‘core competencies’
The Pikes Peak Community Foundation has undertaken a housecleaning so thorough, it even sold the house.
The sale came last week as part of a major overhaul to get back to the foundation’s “core competencies,” said Gary Butterworth, the foundation’s new CEO, who started permanent status at the nonprofit in May.
The foundation expects to move closer to downtown from its location on North Nevada Avenue, but hasn’t yet chosen a final spot. The 501(c)3, under Butterworth and its board’s leadership, has also eliminated five and a half positions, consolidated responsibilities, created two new positions, developed an independent committee and will examine about 150 fiscal sponsorships.
“[The foundation] was established to build endowments and serve philanthropists in the community to serve the needs of the community over time,” Butterworth said. “We do that by building legacy funds and donor services, and providing community leadership. We’ve been working to refine our strategic plan going forward.”
The foundation’s focus has been stretched too thin, said Nikki McComsey, the foundation’s new director of donor services.
“One challenge we’ve created for ourselves is we have become known for Venetucci [Farm], Aspen Valley [Ranch in Woodland Park] — real traditional programs,” she said. “But if you look across the country, community foundations are intended to facilitate philanthropy and getting more grant dollars to nonprofits. People see the community foundation here as Venetucci and Aspen Valley, and we are all our fiscal sponsored funds, but across the nation, that’s not what makes community foundations effective.”
Regarding sponsor funds, Butterworth said the foundation will continue to offer support, but separation is coming.
“We have a responsibility to work with them and help them transition to whatever the next piece is,” he said. “This isn’t a flash cut. For some it’s six months, for some it’s extended to a longer period.
“There are organizations that indicated they are pursuing their own 501(c)3 status, which requires more time to file paperwork.”
Butterworth said it’s not possible to determine how many sponsor funds will remain after restructuring.
Those priorities, Butterworth said, were made clear by the foundation’s board, which went through its own strategic planning process at the end of 2015.
“Through our process, we presented a work plan to our board,” Butterworth said. “Assessing the skill sets needed, we eliminated all positions except CEO, director of donor services and director of finance.”
The two new full-time positions include an administrative assistant position as well as a grant and donor services officer.
“This is a normal business process.”
— Gary Butterworth
Current staff members were invited to apply for those positions, and they have been posted externally as well.
“We’ve had to figure out our skill sets and how our programs relate to this new business model, which isn’t really a new business model, but what a community foundation should be focused on and what services it should provide in the community,” Butterworth said.
The foundation currently has about $63 million in assets, a portion of which is tied to the programs it helps facilitate, such as Venetucci Farms, Aspen Valley Ranch and Pikes Peak Urban Gardens.
But despite rumors, Butterworth said, Venetucci Farm is not up for sale.
“That was brought up when we had the [perfluorinated chemical-tainted water] issue over the summer, but we are not selling,” Butterworth said. “That is not part of the vision here. What we want the committee to do is understand the asset and how it can most effectively operate and serve Venetucci’s legacy and the community moving forward.
“Sale is not an option,” he reiterated. “This was a gift to the community and the community foundation. Our charge is to find the right approach moving forward and we’re asking this committee to look under every stone.”
McComsey said the foundation is not looking to financially benefit from Venetucci “in any way.”
Creating an additional hurdle, the foundation’s board recently voted to suspend farming operations at Venetucci Farm through 2017, a public safety precaution as PPCF continues to research the impact of tainted water in the region.
“While initial results from tests on the soil and some produce have indicated low levels of uptake of PFCs, we still await the results of certified results by AXYS [Analytical Services] labs on Venetucci Farm products,” Butterworth said. “It is expected that every effort will be made, if appropriate, to plant and harvest pumpkins and perpetuate the Venetucci’s Pumpkins for Kids legacy in 2017.”
The community found out earlier this year that private wells in Fountain, Security and Widefield were contaminated with the chemicals.
Butterworth said the foundation began facilitating programs 10 years ago, and has progressed to the point where most can be self-sustaining.
“We’re now taking a look at what is the next step for them. When investing lots of resources on those, it’s challenging to keep all the balls in the air,” he said. “Our strength resides in understanding the community’s needs, but also in continuing to nurture the philanthropic ecosystem of the community. Bringing philanthropists together in an effort to enable them to have a greater impact — that’s where we should be moving forward.
“This is a normal business process,” he added, “reevaluating where the organization is and how to we can have the greatest impact long-term.”
The Center for Nonprofit Excellence and the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center are two organizations that already take on the responsibility of helping facilitate and build nonprofits, Butterworth said.
“Some might choose to say this is the end of the road,” he said. “But there are other entities in the community they can align with.”
Fiscal sponsorship, Butterworth said, is a tool for community foundations or nonprofits to utilize strategically, is generally short-term in nature and is aligned with priorities.
Butterworth said he understands why the charitable community might be concerned.
“That’s natural. It’s change,” he said. “But I’m very comfortable in our process. The support we’ve availed to them, not just us, but through our partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, will help this transition be as smooth as possible.”
The foundation is taking a “long-term view,” McComsey said.
“Will this be difficult for some? Yes. But we believe and want people to know we’re working toward the long-term health of this community,” she said.
“We know the community will be in a stronger place if we make these hard decisions today.”
The old foundation model did an exceptional job in meeting responsibilities with available resources, Butterworth said.
“But we want to see growth,” he said. “Our job is to develop those relationships and demonstrate value. We need to be the experts on philanthropy in this community.”
Note: The online version of this article corrected a print error. The Pikes Peak Community Foundation committee will examine Venetucci Farm. The 150 sponsor funds will undergo an internal examination.